Grand Seiko's new timepiece is inspired by Shizukuishi forests

The ‘Hi-Beat Birch Forest’ watch recalls the white birch tree forests near Grand Seiko's studio in Shizukuishi

A close-up of a side-ways facing silver coloured Grand Sieko watch. The watch face is silver with a rough edge and the face has Roman numerals.
Hi-Beat Birch Forest SLGH005’ watch iin stainless steel, part of the ‘Series 9’ collection, £8,500, by Grand Seiko
(Image credit: Leon Chew)

Japanese watch brand Grand Seiko epitomises clean design, a concept it formalised in 1967 with the launch of its understated ‘44GS’ wristwatch. Balancing form and function, the classic watch knitted together the elegant technical accomplishments that underpin a Grand Seiko watch, defining for the first time its nine cornerstones of design. These include multi-faceted markers, a flat dial, a curved profile and a highly polished bezel, foundations upon which all subsequent watches have since been built.

Dials may be flat, but textured patterns create an illusion of depth, containing a subtle spectrum of hues that nod to the Japanese custom of expressing the gradations between light and shadow, rather than the stark monochrome of black and white.

The ‘Hi-Beat Birch Forest’ watch, part of the ‘Series 9’ collection, plays on these tones in shadow, translating this feeling of light and movement into a subtle tribute to the brand’s heritage.

‘This watch captures the dynamism of the white birch tree forests near the studio in Shizukuishi where all Grand Seiko mechanical watches are crafted,’ explains a Grand Seiko spokesperson. The birch bark pattern on the dial has been created with a varying depth of surface, which allows for an elegant interplay of light refracted from the dial. We particularly like feeling the call of the wild whenever we look at the time.

While natural themes have played a consistent role in Grand Seiko's design since the beginning, the quest for accuracy has always taken centre stage. The first Grand Seiko watch in 1960 was accurate to an impressive +12 to -3 seoonds a day; with a power reserve of 45 hours, it was a big step up from the mechanical watches of the Fifties. Since then, accuracy has only got sharper, and the following decades have only cemented the watch brand's reputatation as being both reliable and design-led.


This article originally featured in the June 2021 issue of Wallpaper* (W*266),  available for free download

Hannah Silver joined Wallpaper* in 2019 to work on watches and jewellery. Now, as well as her role as watches and jewellery editor, she writes widely across all areas including on art, architecture, fashion and design. As well as offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, Hannah is interested in the quirks of what makes for a digital success story.

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